Teleradiology decreases off-hour interpretation time

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Using teleradiology to interpret off-hours inpatient imaging serves as an important process improvement tool in decreasing the time to create preliminary written reports for CT pulmonary angiographic studies, according to a study in the March issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Scott Kennedy, MD, from  at New Haven, Conn., and colleagues sought to evaluate the impact of a teleradiology service on the time to interpretation for CT pulmonary angiographic studies.

A survey of clinical and imaging physicians was performed to develop goals for the interpretation of CT pulmonary angiographic studies. Percentages of studies given preliminary written reports within the thresholds were compared for 485 CT pulmonary angiographic studies completed three months before teleradiology was implemented and 617 studies completed three months afterward. They compared a total of 1,638 CT brain studies completed over identical periods.

The median of the optimal time to the preliminary written interpretation of a CT pulmonary angiographic study reported by radiology chairs was 60 minutes, compared with 20 minutes for emergency medicine physicians, who also reported a 40-minute limit for an acceptable time to interpretation.

Kenneday and colleagues said that there were statistically significant improvements in the percentages of these studies interpreted within the 60-minute (51 to 62 percent) and 20-minute (9 to 13 percent) optimal time thresholds, as well as within the 40-minute acceptable time threshold (34 to 43 percent). No statistically significant improvements occurred for CT brain studies.

However, the researchers noted that "the improvements were not as substantial as one would hope. The small size of the improvements was probably partly because the teleradiology service covered only 40 hours per week (six hours per weekday and five hours per weekend day) out of a possible 168 hours, or 23.8 percent of the time."

The authors observed that by establishing agreed-on time standards for reporting such exams, radiologists and clinicians can collaborate to ensure the prompt diagnosis and treatment of potentially lethal illnesses, such as pulmonary embolism.

Yale University School of Medicine's Office of Student Research Short-Term Research Training Fellowship supported the study.